Today, I learned that I live in a leftist bubble. My illusions that most of my fellow Americans share my values of inclusiveness and equality was shattered. I have spent much of the day in despair, and I can feel the hard-heartedness wanting to take over. Fellow yoga teachers are all on Facebook like “come to class and let’s be the light” and I’m all over here like “I want to kick every person who voted for this hate-monger in the teeth.” I have been wondering all day how I’m going to get it together in time to teach my evening yoga class tonight when I feel so disheartened and sad.
And then I remembered it is exactly because I feel disheartened and sad that I turn to yoga. Yoga is not just a “feel-good, happiness-inducing practice”, it is a “comfort me when I’m sad and broken practice” and a “sometimes the truth hurts practice” and a “I’m going to keep showing up anyway no matter how many times I am left sobbing in the dirt practice.” So it hit me, the only theme that there could possibly be for tonight’s sadhana: Metta, a practice of loving-kindness.
Loving-kindness, or metta, is unconditional, inclusive love, a love with wisdom. It has no conditions; it does not depend on whether one “deserves” it or not; it is not restricted to friends and family; it extends out from personal categories to include all living beings. There are no expectations of anything in return. This is the ideal, pure love, which everyone has in potential. We begin with loving ourselves, for unless we have a measure of this unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves, it is difficult to extend it to others. Then we include others who are special to us, those who challenge us (ahem!) ultimately, all living things. Gradually, both the visualization and the meditation phrases blend into the actual experience, the feeling of loving kindness. (www.contemplativemind.org/practices/tree/loving-kindness)
So even if you can’t join us at The Womb Room tonight, perhaps you could take a few moments to do a Metta meditation of your own. Here’s how.
Sit or lie comfortably and become attuned to your breathing. Make your posture relaxed and breathe in and out through the center of your chest. Try to release the desire to change, control or manage what is happening. Slow down the flow and watch the breath as it rises and falls – as all things do – a coming and a going, without attachment to either. Begin by generating a kind feeling toward yourself. Feel any areas of mental blockage or numbness, self-judgment, self-hatred. Then drop beneath that to the place where we care for ourselves, where we want strength and health and safety for ourselves. Continuing to breathe in and out, then say or think the following phrases several times.
May I be safe and protected.
May I be free from inner and outer harm and danger.
May I be free of physical and mental suffering or distress.
May I be happy, healthy and strong.
May I be able to live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully, with ease.
After you have repeated these phrases in reference to yourself, repeat the phrases as an offering to: someone you love very much, someone you feel neutral toward, someone who challenges you or makes you angry (ahem!) and then to all living beings.
I don’t know what will become of us individually or collectively, but I know that in times of celebration and times of despair, yoga gives me tools to understand, to process and to continue to live from a place of love and pure intention.
Want more? Consider coming to Yoga Nidra Friday night. The practice of Yoga Nidra is excellent for releasing negative emotions, frustrations and hopelessness and the desire to kick people in the teeth.